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Bridging Critical Workplace Skill Gaps

By August 3, 2020Article

As COVID-19 drives unparalleled market change, emphasis on gaining the essential skills required to achieve competitive advantage rather than filling key positions.

Earlier this year, Gartner announced that developing key skills and company competencies will be the top priority for HR leaders in 2020. In addition, digital technology has made widespread and multidimensional ambiguity a new standard. Then came the pandemic and the need for critical skills escalated.

The need for critical skills has never been higher. The Talent data from labour markets suggest many businesses have unwittingly built the wrong workforce to power their future — and continue to do so.

Even before the pandemic, there were changes in workforce and workforce management. Eventually new duties and obligations emerged, eclipsing roles and interpretations of positions. Job patterns driven by COVID-19— such as remote work, rapid digital change, and contract work — all intensify these changes.

Many business owners, rate growing the business as their top mission-critical priority for the company. Yet digitisation is reinventing business, and companies need new or different skills to drive their changing business models — and more companies compete for the same skills.

CEOs turn to HR leaders to hire and/or develop the talent required to fuel digital goals however hiring talent in a highly competitive environment is expensive, and upskilling current workers requires time and money.

Therefore, if the existing workforce do not possess the required skills to perform vital positions, and demand in the global market makes it prohibitive to develop those skills, how can HR leaders still achieve the business’ growth objectives?

Look for abilities adjacent to your requirements

In this high-pressured environment, where the supply of essential skills is restricted, and digitisation is causing rapid shifts in skills requirements. Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) require new or alternative ways to train or recruit workers in these positions.

It is worth identifying what companies are doing when they are trying to serve a vital role. Importantly, they are not inherently looking for an applicant characterised by a role, but rather one with the skills required to perform the duties of that role.

Focusing on identifying skills for all workplace roles, rather than defining roles in terms of their position, HR leaders may use an alternative approach to improve or recruit personnel through addressing and leveraging skills adjacency.

Leverage Stepping-Stone Skills for Cross-Function Mobility

The true potential of skills adjacency resides in the ability to recognise and leverage stepping-stone skills to bridge expertise across various spheres.

Through recognising these connections, HR leaders will examine one part of the organisation to fill open roles in another apparently unrelated area of the organisation. For example. Figure 1 outlines two skills sets that are more widely associated with IT and marketing — domains that are not rarely known to have complementary skills. Sentiment analysis is a bridge between the two sets of skills related to NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Social listening.

Fig. 1

In this situation, a marketing employee with social listening experience is more likely to be comfortable with sentiment analysis. This familiarity would enable workers to be educated in sentiment analysis. Once skilled in sentiment analysis, it is a seamless transition to NLP.

Although this example is from an upskilling point of view, it may also benefit the recruiting process, where recruiters select marketers for a job instead of a more competitive IT domain. This is particularly relevant in a digital work environment increasingly dependent on IT-related skills.

This is one example demonstrating how skills development can leverage and fill skills gaps in today’s increasingly competitive talent market. This approach offers a further tool for business owners to prepare and execute their talent strategy to expand business and improve business results.


Organisations are discovering skills harnessed by their workers are not inherently future proof; workers either lack necessary new skills or are unable to meet the requirements of the digital sector. It is imperative to concentrate on the recognition of skills across all organisational skills, rather than identify skills in terms of the role they play. Business owners should leverage expertise to develop their abilities more effectively and hire personnel to fill important skills gaps.